In the next few weeks, a group of judicious and respected Kentucky Baptist leaders will engage representatives from Campbellsville University in what we trust will be an open and honest dialogue. The purpose of this undertaking is to better understand the theological convictions that chart CU’s course and whether or not those convictions are still compatible with the mission our Lord has given the churches of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Recent news that the university will not tenure a popular professor in their school of theology has solicited both an outpouring of support for the professor and swirling accusations about the university. For most Kentucky Baptists, a personnel matter at one of our nine agencies or institutions is a matter that should be handled privately by the administration without interference by the public.
Claims, however, that CU retains other professors in the school of theology who reject biblical authority and professors in other disciplines who affirm evolution, are difficult for many Kentucky Baptists to swallow. This is especially true when well over $1 million of their missions offerings are helping pay the salaries of those professors every year.
As I peruse emails I have received calling for the defunding of CU and threatening to defund the Cooperative Program if the KBC does not take action, I understand the concerns but am equally concerned that we do not rush to judgment. I earnestly pray that accusations regarding one institution will not be used to undermine all that Kentucky Baptists support, including the education 16,000 Southern Baptist Convention seminary students and more than 10,000 missionaries and church planters taking the gospel to Kentucky, North America, and the ends of the earth.
I am, however, genuinely troubled by the testimonies of some current and former CU students.
Tenuous and fragile are words that describe the relationships between most state conventions and their liberal arts universities. Higher education, by its very nature, requires the kind of academic freedom and exploration that is sometimes difficult to envision being funded by missions offerings. But if academic freedom is no longer afforded to those who hold to “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) and teach a high view of Scripture (2Tim 3:16), the time for church support has clearly passed.
Is this the case for Kentucky Baptists and another of their historic educational institutions? I certainly hope not and appreciate the wisdom of God’s word where it says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17). Given the claims being made by CU’s detractors, open and honest dialogue is necessary to reveal the answer to this question.
Again, the purpose of this undertaking is not to enter into the inherently private personnel issues of the university but to determine the compatibility of CU’s mission with the mission of the churches of the KBC.
Kentucky Baptists have been on a journey together for more than 175 years. That journey has found us investing in the work of CU for nearly a century. Let us not rush to judgment on this matter for “one who is wise is cautious” (Prov 14:16). Instead, let us walk with prudence, seeking knowledge that will lead to understanding (Ps 119:66).
Please join me in praying that God will grant us the understanding we need so that the mission He has given Kentucky Baptists can be accomplished.